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In Conversation With Cheryl Todd Founder of Harmony Grove Yoga
Norm Goldman --  bookpleasures.com Norm Goldman -- bookpleasures.com
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Montreal, QC
Tuesday, December 22, 2020


Bookpleasures.com welcomesas our guest Cheryl Todd. Cheryl is a registered Yoga teacher basedin San Diego who specializes in gentle, senior, chair, and adaptiveYoga. For the past twenty years Cheryl  has enjoyed teaching herclasses and helping her participants learn how to feel their bestthrough yoga. She is the founder of  Harmony Grove Yoga.

Norm:  Good dayCheryl and thanks for participating in our interview.

How did yoga come intoyour life and what has that journey been like for you?

Cheryl:  Thank youNorm for having me here and for the opportunity to share my work andmy story with your community.  There are so many wonderfulbenefits of yoga and the good news is that anyone, regardless of age,condition, or physical limitations, can experience these benefits andimprove the way they feel overall, simply by practicing a yoga stylethat blends with their individual needs.  I was fortunate toexperience these benefits and the effectiveness of yoga first-hand inmy life, so I can tell you truthfully that it works! 

For more than a decade, Ihad been dedicated to my work in the medical field as a front andback office medical assistant in urgent care and as a nurse assistantworking mainly with seniors in their homes and in retirementcommunities.

I’ve always enjoyedhelping people feel their best and I loved my work.  I was alsoraising a family and trying to keep a happy balance of work and homelife. Over time, the joys of my life were fading as pain andunshakable fatigue started taking control of my body. 

At first, I thought I wasjust overworked but the aches and pain, fatigue, headaches andexhaustion were getting worse by the day. In short, I was eventuallydiagnosed with Fibromyalgia and could no longer work. 

This took a toll on myfamily as well.  It was quite a depressing time in my life. I had such a wonderful, active life before this.  Now what? Just when I was ready to give up and give in, an opportunity toparticipate in an 8-week pain management program was offered to me bymy Physician and although I knew it would be a struggle, I jumped onthe opportunity, because enough is enough!

The program consisted ofseveral therapeutic modalities such as bio feed-back, physical andoccupational therapy, and so on. In the 3rd week of the program, ayoga therapy session was introduced to me. It was my first experiencewith yoga and one I will never forget. That’s when that “ah-ha”moment happened, and my life with Fibromyalgia changed forever. It started with learning to bring awareness to the inside, using mybreath in stillness to relieve and let go of pain and stress in thebody as well as the mind. Then to combine the breath and awarenessinto the body with gentle movement, again, to release tension fromtight areas.

I was slowly opening up,getting stronger, and feeling a sense of peace and wellness. It waschanging me physically as well as mentally as my attitude toward mypain was beginning to shift. My attention was moving toward thepossibilities now, not the disabilities.  The more I practiced,the better I felt and the more I could move without pain.  Bythe end of the program, I knew I had to share the benefits of yogawith others.

Fibromyalgia doesn’t goaway, but now I had the tools I needed to deal with it. 

Needless to say, Icompleted the program, continued practicing yoga and  became ayoga teacher so I could share the gift of yoga with others.  Ireceived my first yoga teacher certification in classical hatha yogain 2001 and went on from there to specialize and become certified ingentle, chair, senior, and adaptive yoga.

Over the years, I haveenjoyed teaching in a variety of settings, including pain managementcenters, spas, senior communities, studios, and corporate offices,and now, online. 

I feel truly blessed thatthat my life and this journey turned out the way it did, and I haveto think that Fibromyalgia was actually a gift in disguise.

 Norm: How hasyoga changed you and what do you feel it creates in your daily life?

Cheryl:  Yoga hasgiven me a new perspective on life. It keeps me grounded and movingfreely.  It has given me more clarity and a better sense ofawareness. It teaches me to  listen to my body and to know whenit’s time to be still. It gives me great coping skills and theability to help others going through similar situations, which I takegreat pride in doing.

Norm: Why do youpractice and why do you teach Yoga?

Cheryl:  Yoga is sucha huge part of my life.  I think now that I’m in my 60’s,it’s even more important to practice and  maintain  mystrength, flexibility, balance, and clarity. I don’t know where Iwould be if I didn’t practice yoga regularly. 

My body tends to stiffenup quite quickly and those kinks, knots, and stressors build upfast.  For me, practicing yoga is a release and relief. And it keeps me moving!  I find so much joy in teaching yoga,especially to our less-flexible communities. The comments I receivefrom my students about how these classes have benefited them in avariety of ways, is thrilling to me. I’m so happy and honored thatthey are reaping the rewards of their practice.

Norm: What do youconsider to be your greatest success (or successes) so far in yourcareer as a Yoga teacher?

Cheryl: I feel that mygreatest success was getting my life back through yoga. I have come along way from those days.  Receiving my nursing and yogacredentials, teaching yoga and raising my family are all part of it.To me being successful is being happy and well, and I am definitelyfeeling that!

Norm: What has beenyour greatest challenge (professionally) that you’ve overcome ingetting to where you’re at today? 

Cheryl: This would have tobe going to online teaching. I started teaching online with live,private classes and Youtube videos before the pandemic, so I was usedto all the glitches by the time we were in lock down. 

I’m not that tech savvyso I had to learn the ins and outs of cameras, mics, lighting,editing, virtual platforms, social media, etc.  I’m still notgreat at it but somehow, it’s working, and at least I’m able toreach my global community. 

Norm: Could you tell usabout people and/or books you have read that have inspired you toembark on your career as a Yoga instructor?  

Cheryl:  My firstyoga teacher’s teacher was Indra Devi. She was 92 years old whenmy  teacher trained with her. She was still teaching until herdeath at 102 years old and an inspiration to many.

She was known as the 1stlady of yoga and pioneering teacher of yoga as exercise and stressrelief, and for bringing yoga to Hollywood, subsequently the firstwomen to bring yoga to the west.  I also admire Judith Lasaterwho has written numerous books and articles on the therapeuticaspects of yoga.  She holds a doctorate in East-West psychologyand has been teaching yoga since 1971.

One of her books inparticular, Renew and Relax was of great help me.  B.K.S.Iyengar and his book, The Path to Holistic Health was alsovery informative, inspiring and eye opening.  And then there aremy students, all of whom have inspired me.

Norm: How do yourespond to the following- For many people, the main concern in a yogaclass is whether they are breathing correctly or their legs arealigned. But for others, there are lingering doubts about whetherthey should be there at all, or whether they are betraying theirreligion. 

Cheryl:  There aremany types of  practices, branches and styles of yoga. Some are quite spiritual while others are focused only on fitness,but yoga in itself is not a religion. 

To quote Gary Kraftsow thefounder and director of the American Viniyoga Institute, 

Yoga was never secular,traditionally.  It was always connected to spirituality, andspirituality was never separated from religion.  But thespiritual dimensions of yoga were used by many different religions. 

Althoughreligious-specific faiths taught yoga, the actual yoga teachings wereused by many different religions.”  So, I think thisdistinction between yoga as a spiritual journey that supportsreligion verses yoga as a religion is very useful. 

Yoga does not consider anyparticular religious belief as a requirement and one does not need toforgo any faith to benefit from yoga.  As they say in India,Yoga is a marriage of spirit and matter, a scientific system designedto bring one back to his/her original self.  

Norm: Please brieflydescribe the program you followed to become a certified Yogainstructor?

Cheryl: First, I did a lotof research to find the right programs for me, with eachcertification. My first teacher training program in classical hathayoga was my foundation. 

It was a 12-week, 200 hourintensive program which included teaching methodology, anatomy andphysiology, philosophy, ethics, lifestyle, practicum, self-directedresearch and essays, attending outside workshops, classes, retreatsand learning the asanas, (physical postures and breath work). We hadto learn the names of these asanas in English and Sanskrit and eachbenefit, and contraindication of each pose.

Gratefully, Anatomy,physiology, and certain medical conditions came fairly easy to mesince I already had a medical background.  With thecertification I received upon graduation, I met the requirements tobecome a registered yoga teacher and was ready to begin my teachingcareer. 

The programs that followedwere advanced trainings, more in-depth, and focused on my interestsin teaching to special demographics.  Some of the topics inthese curriculums included learning to teach to certain groups andindividuals with special needs, limited mobility, chronic healthissues, certain medical conditions, pain, depression, and so on.   

Norm: In your opinion,what is the most difficult part of teaching chair Yoga to seniors?

Cheryl:  Before thepandemic, I would normally have 30 to 40 class attendees.  Itwas wonderful to see that many devoted students.  The hard partwas keeping an eye on everyone, making sure they were always safe. I encouraged them with frequent reminders that they are their ownbest teachers so listening to their bodies became the theme. Icontinually give cues to be mindful when they move and to stop whenthey needed to, and don’t forget breath! It’s a job well worthall of the challenges.  

Norm: My wife and Ihave attended for many years chair Yoga classes and now with thepandemic we have been following these classes, particularly yours,online.  What we noticed is that there are far more women thatfollow

these classes than men.How do you explain this phenomenon?

Cheryl:  It’strue!  I really can’t figure it out either! When yogaoriginated, it was for men only!  I have a hard time myselfgetting my husband to practice with me.  His thing is walkingand push-ups!  Over the years I have in-listed several women inmy classes to recruit their spouses, boyfriends, brothers, and malefriends and now have about 40% more, devoted male participants! I think that men just aren’t as willing as women to give it a try. In my opinion, they don’t know what they’re missing!

Norm: Why do youbelieve Chair Yoga is beneficial for our well-being? Do you feelanyone can enjoy and gain from yoga?  Do you believe it is analternative form of healing and medicine?  

Cheryl:  Chair yogais a gentle, modified form of yoga that almost anyone can do andbenefit from while seated or even standing with the chair’ssupport. I think chair yoga gives people a sense of safety and thatfeeling of complete support while exercising. 

In combination with thebreath, it improves circulation, flexibility, balance, and strength.It helps with boosting your mood and immune system, reduces stressand pain and for some provides better sleep, and an overall sense ofwellness, among other things!  Some people do use yoga as analternative to other treatments, but I believe that yoga is not acure all by itself, but works well in combination with traditionalmedicine as an integrative and complimentary therapy.

For myself, yoga took theplace of any medication or further treatment for Fibromyalgia, soyoga is an alternative therapy for me in that way.

Norm: What is Harmony Grove Yoga all about? How did it start and where is itlocated? What is the derivation of the name?

Cheryl: After years ofteaching in various locations to a variety of people,  I saw theneed to expand my teachings to reach more students who weren’t ableto travel, but wanted to attend, and who could benefit by practicingfrom home or wherever they happened to be.

I also wanted to form acommunity of wellness and spread the word of the benefits of yoga toa wider range of the population.

In 2011, I formed myonline business and founded Harmony Grove Yoga with the goalof making yoga more accessible for all abilities and to bring yoga toour senior and wellness communities through in person and onlineclasses.

I Included teachingprivate and small groups from my little Harmony Grove Yoga homestudio.

As my mobile, onsite andonline classes grew, I gave up teaching from the home studio andthere is no longer an actual brick and mortar studio. However,Harmony Grove Yoga is still alive and doing well!  Thename, Harmony Grove Yoga was derived from a beautiful place,an area located near my home in a rural setting with lots of walkingtrails and surrounded by nature.  It has always been a place ofpeace for me. 

Norm: When you areinstructing a chair Yoga class, do you follow some kind of a plan? Asa follow up, what type of yoga do you teach? 

Cheryl:  In my earlydays of teaching, I would prepare for each class by writing downeverything that I was going to do.  The sequencing, theme, whichasanas to present, everything was on paper!  Now, withexperience, I lean toward reading my audience and I seem to pick upon their vibe and what they need for that day.  It definitelycomes easier when you’ve done it for a while.

I teach a gentle, eclecticstyle of yoga.  I like to bring fun and fitness together in myclasses.  For instance, in my chair yoga classes we do thingslike picking apples, stir the pot, row the boat, etc.  We laughand smile a lot as we move!  I end each class with a shortrelaxation so that we can absorb everything we just did and so mystudents have time to feel the effects of their practice.

Norm: If someone wantsto participate in chair Yoga, how often should they practice it everyweek?

Cheryl:  Of course,it depends on the individual, but I think that to really benefit, oneshould make a commitment to practice at least once a week, andincrease slowly to 3 days per week, evaluate after that and see ifyou can increase to your maximum at 5 days per week.  You willfeel and see the difference overtime.  

Norm: Are there anycurrent projects you’re working on that you can tell us about?

Cheryl: Right now, mybiggest project is staying safe.  The pandemic has put a stop tomost things but I’m fortunate to be able to go to my local seniorchair yoga classes and teach outside with small groups. 

I am also blessed withhaving online classes that keep me busy.  I am working onpresenting more Youtube videos as well.  In the midst of this,we are remodeling our home, which is quite a project in itself!

Norm:  Where canour readers find out more about you and your classes?

Cheryl:  You canvisit my WEBSITE.   You can also viewmy videos and practice with me at YOUTUBE    

Norm: As our interviewcomes to an end what advice would you give to someone who is juststarting out on their yoga journey?

Cheryl: Start slow. Research to find the right teacher and appropriate class for yourneeds. Commit to your practice and be kind to yourself, always.

Norm: Thanks once againand good luck with all of your future endeavors.

Thank you, Norm.  Itwas my pleasure to be here.  I hope this engagement has broughtsome awareness to the many benefits that yoga provides. Thank youagain, stay well, be safe, and keep moving!  Many blessings toyou and to your community. 

 Norm Goldman of Bookpleasures.com

News Media Interview Contact
Name: Norm Goldman
Group: bookpleasures.com
Dateline: Montreal, QC Canada
Direct Phone: 514-486-8018
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